US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has attacked Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
At a Democratic debate in New Hampshire on Saturday, Clinton said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was using videos of the billionaire tycoon talking about his idea as a recruitment tool.
“He is becoming ISIS’ best recruiter. They are going to people showing Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists,” Clinton said.
Clinton, the favourite to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, offered no evidence for her assertions.
She also came under fire as Bernie Sanders, the second placed Democrat in polling, accused her of being too quick to support regime change in Syria at a debate that was dominated by security issues.
The two leading Democrat candidates, joined by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, also clashed over gun control, an issue that has resurfaced after a series of mass shootings this year.
Sanders, seeking to claw back Clinton’s lead in polls of Democratic voters, criticised the former secretary of state for advocating the quick departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad has resisted all diplomatic efforts to leave power with a civil war raging in his country and swaths of territory controlled by ISIL.
“Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be,” Sanders said during the debate.
“Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS,” using an alternative name for ISIL.
“Regime change is easy. Getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after,” said Sanders, a democratic socialist.
Clinton rejected the criticism and pointed out that Sanders as a US senator from Vermont had voted “for regime change with respect to Libya” in 2011.
She also disagreed with Sanders’ assertion that the US military should prioritise the fight against ISIL over working to get Assad to leave power, saying both should be done at the same time.
“We will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there – who are not associated with ISIS, but whose principal goal is getting rid of Assad – don’t believe there is a political diplomatic channel that is ongoing. We now have that,” Clinton said.
“It’s very important we operate on both at the same time.”
The gun control issue was pressed by O’Malley, who is far behind in the polls and needs to shake up a race increasingly tilting against him with six weeks to go until the state of Iowa holds the first nominating contest.
He accused his opponents of adopting a more aggressive stance on gun control in the wake of this year’s mass shootings.
O’Malley also said ISIL fighters have advised recruits that the best way to get a weapon in the US is at a gun show where rules are more lenient on the purchase of a firearm.
This is a result, he said, of “flip-flopping” by Sanders and Clinton.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, Martin,” Sanders said.
“Let’s tell the truth, Martin,” Clinton chimed in.
Sanders said he had lost an election in Vermont for a gun-control stance and Clinton said she had backed gun-control measures.